15 Fascinating (Or At Least Interesting) Facts About Elon Musk

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Originally published on EVANNEX.

Elon Musk has been the target of a relentless smear campaign this year. While greedy (and shadowy) figures spew salacious gossip, diehard Tesla fanboys claim to know the real deal — right down to the most obscure detail about The Ironman. Hint: see item #5 below. To test your own knowledge, see if you’re aware of these surprising 15 factoids (via CNBC and Redbook) about Elon Musk.

1. Musk holds South African, Canadian, and U.S. citizenship.

Musk was raised in Pretoria, South Africa, before moving to Canada at age 17. Three years later, he moved to the United States to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

2. Musk has a net worth of $21.8 billion.

All that work at Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal has really paid off for Musk. He’s currently the 37th-richest person in the world, according to Forbes.

3. Musk taught himself computer programming at the age of 9.

He reportedly taught himself the basics of computer programming when he was only 9 years old. Three years later, Musk built a space-themed PC game called Blastar. He sold the code for Blastar for $500 to a computer magazine. You can actually still play Blastar online.

4. Musk dropped out of Stanford after just two days.

After earning two bachelors’ degrees (yes, two) at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to California to study Physics at Stanford. But after just two days, he dropped out to found his first company, Zip2 Corporation.

5. Musk was the inspiration for Tony Stark, a.k.a. Ironman.

The superhero/serial entrepreneur Tony Stark a.k.a Ironman, is based at least a little bit on Musk. The actor who plays him, Robert Downey Jr., reportedly wanted to sit down with Musk to get inspiration for the character. Parts of Iron Man 2 were even filmed at SpaceX and Musk made a cameo appearance in the movie.

6. Musk’s official Tesla salary is way lower than you think.

Musk’s total compensation package for Tesla is less than $40,000, and he reportedly doesn’t even cash the checks. However, between the 35 million Tesla shares he owns, and his earnings from SpaceX and he’s doing alright (see item #2).

7. Musk is the owner of a “submarine car” from a James Bond film.

Musk is the owner of the “Wet Nellie,” a Lotus submarine car prop from the 1970s James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. He reportedly plans to to convert it into a real car that transforms into a sub.

8. Musk is a big X-Men fan.

During a Tesla factory upgrade, Musk decided to name some of the factory’s new robots after X-Men characters, including Xavier, Iceman, Wolverine, Storm, and Colossus. When announcing the factory upgrade, Tesla wrote, “To us, these robots are like superheroes, so we figured they deserved superhero names.”

9. Musk ran a nightclub out of his house in college.

When he was attending the University of Pennsylvania, Musk and his roommate decided to escape student housing and live in a bigger house off-campus. In order to pay the rent, they turned it into a nightclub that attracted as many as 1,000 patrons per night.

10. Musk started building his own rockets when he was a kid.

A housekeeper would take care of Musk and his siblings when his parents were away. “She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” said Musk. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

11. Musk was a master at Dungeons & Dragons.

Musk traveled with his cousins to Johannesburg for a Dungeons & Dragons tournament. “That was us being nerd masters supremes,” Musk told Ashley Vance, author of his biography. According to his cousin Peter Rive, Musk helped their team win the tournament with his “incredible imagination” and ability to keep people “captivated and inspired.”

12. Musk used to live on a budget of $1 a day.

Musk was determined to survive on $1 a day by buying food at the supermarket in bulk when he arrived in North America. “I went more for the hotdogs and oranges… [but] you do get really tired of hot dogs and oranges after a while,” explained Musk — mixing things up every now and then with some “pasta and green pepper and a big thing of sauce” which he said could “go pretty far too.”

13. Musk tried opening his own video arcade at 16.

Musk got the idea to open an arcade by his high school, according to Vance’s book. He teamed up with his brother. They got as far as signing a lease, setting contracts together, and filling out forms at the city planning department. But their plans were foiled when the city told them they were too young.

14. Musk read the entire encyclopedia at 9 years old. 

Musk said, “I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents.” He would pore over books for up to 10 hours a day. He reportedly read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica at age nine and moved on to sci-fi and fantasy favorites including The Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

Under Musk’s leadership, Tesla’s stock has skyrocketed since its IPO (YouTube: CNBC Make It.)

15. Betting on Musk at Tesla’s IPO would’ve made you a lot of money.

Back in 2010, if you’d invested in Elon Musk’s electric car startup when it made its initial public offering, that investment would’ve really paid off. A $1,000 investment in Tesla would be worth more than $21,000 as of Dec. 12, according to CNBC calculations, including price appreciation and dividend gains reinvested.

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Matt Pressman

Matt is all about Tesla. He’s a TSLA investor, and he loves driving the family's Model 3, Model S, and Model X company cars. As co-founder of EVANNEX, a family business specializing in aftermarket Tesla accessories, he’s served as a contributor/editor of Electric Vehicle University (EVU) and the Owning Model S and Getting Ready for Model 3 books. He writes daily about Tesla and you can follow his work on the EVANNEX blog.

Matt Pressman has 332 posts and counting. See all posts by Matt Pressman